Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
by
Plaintiff filed suit against her employer, the EEOC, alleging that the agency had subjected her to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and had violated her rights under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's retaliatory hostile work environment claim under Title VII, as well as her interference and reasonable accommodation claims under the Rehabilitation Act. The court stated that an employer's deliberate attempts to affect an employee's finances and access to healthcare strike the court as precisely the type of conduct that might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the retaliatory hostile work environment claim under Title VII for events occurring in 2013 and remanded. The court also held that the district court erred by treating the Confirmation Form and Huffer Letter as definitive proof that the only accommodation plaintiff sought was an uncertain and indefinite amount of paid leave. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the reasonable accommodation claim and remanded. The court also reversed the dismissal of the interference claim and remanded for further consideration of plaintiff's interference allegations. Finally, the court held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's confidentiality and medical inquiries claims. View "Menoken v. Dhillon" on Justia Law

by
The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a Federal Election Commission Rule requiring some donations known as independent expenditures (IEs) to be publicly disclosed. In the underlying case, plaintiff brought an enforcement complaint before the Commission alleging that a well-known IE-making entity, Crossroads GPS, had violated the Rule by failing to disclose certain contributors.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's determination agreeing with plaintiffs that the Rule conflicts with the plain terms of the Federal Election Campaign Act's broader disclosure requirements. After addressing various jurisdictional and procedural arguments, the court held that the Rule's requirement that IE makers disclose only those contributions aimed at supporting a specific IE conflicts with FECA's unambiguous terms in two ways: first, the Rule disregards 52 U.S.C. 30104(c)(1)'s requirement that IE makers disclose each donation from contributors who give more than $200, regardless of any connection to IEs eventually made; and second, by requiring disclosure only of donations linked to a particular IE, the Rule impermissibly narrows subsection (c)(2)(C)'s requirement that contributors be identified if their donations are "made for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure." View "Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the District of Columbia, seeking compensation for the Executive Director of the Lottery Board's violation of plaintiff's Fifth Amendment rights. In this case, the Executive Director took a series of adverse personnel actions designed to push plaintiff out of his job without due process.The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the District and in denying summary judgment for plaintiff on the question of Monell liability. The court held, as a matter of law, that the Executive Director acted as a final policymaker on behalf of the District when he took the series of personnel actions that led to plaintiff's constructive termination without due process. Therefore, the court held that the District is liable for the Executive Director's wrongdoing. The court remanded for the district court to enter summary judgment against the District on the liability issue and to determine the appropriate amount of damages. View "Thompson v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the DOJ under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging discrimination on the basis of his race and his sex, as well as retaliation for protected activity. Plaintiff cited seven instances of being passed over for positions for which he believes he was qualified. The district court granted the DOJ's motion for summary judgment, denying plaintiff's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) motion requesting to be allowed to take discovery.The DC Circuit held that the district court acted within its discretion in finding that plaintiff failed to make a showing as to each one of the disputed nonselections, with the notable exception of the handling of plaintiff's request for discovery on his first nonselection. The court stated that, in that respect, the district court's denial of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion was premised on error and was thus an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's entry of judgment as to that nonselection and reversed its denial of the relevant portion of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. The court affirmed in part the district court's entry of judgment in DOJ's favor and its denial of plaintiff's Rule 56(d) motion. View "Jeffries v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims of employment discrimination against Cushman & Wakefield's Chief Executive Officer of the Americas for lack of personal jurisdiction based on the fiduciary shield doctrine.The court held that the fiduciary shield doctrine lacks any basis in either the Due Process Clause or the transacting-business prong of the District of Columbia's long-arm statute, D.C.CODE 13-423(a)(1). The court also held that the district court's dismissal erroneously denied plaintiff's request in the alternative for limited jurisdictional discovery. Accordingly, on remand, the district court may either (i) determine on the current record that defendant's suit-related contacts (made in his capacity as CEO of the Americas and otherwise) satisfy the minimum-contacts standard, or (ii) grant jurisdictional discovery to permit development of the record on defendant's contacts with the District of Columbia. View "Urquhart-Bradley v. Mobley" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit contending that USPS's custom postage program violated the prohibition against viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment. While the parties were completing discovery and nearing summary judgment, the Postal Service adopted the 2018 Rule, which deems custom postage designs acceptable only if they are commercial or social and exclude any content that is political. After plaintiff filed a Supplemental Complaint, the district court granted the Government's motion to dismiss the viewpoint discrimination claim as moot and plaintiff's challenge to the 2018 Rule for failure to state a claim.The DC Circuit held that it had jurisdiction on appeal, because plaintiff's Supplemental Complaint raises two challenges to the Postal Service's current policies covering custom postage and neither claim is moot. First, the Supplemental Complaint incorporates the allegation that plaintiff suffers ongoing viewpoint discrimination. Second, the Postal Service has not met its heavy burden of making it absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur. Accordingly, the court reversed the viewpoint discrimination claim and remanded for further proceedings on the merits.The court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's facial challenge to the 2018 Rule, because the rule's blanket ban on political content fails the objective, workable standards test articulated by the Supreme Court in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, 138 S. Ct. 1876, 1891 (2018). Therefore, the contested rule is unconstitutional. View "Zukerman v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law

by
Following an incident at President Trump's 2019 Social Media Summit involving Appellee Brian Karem, a journalist with a hard pass, and Sebastian Gorka, a Summit attendee, the Press Secretary suspended Karem's pass for thirty days on the ground that his conduct violated "professional journalistic norms."The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the suspension of Karem's hard pass credentials based on Fifth Amendment due process grounds. The court held that Karem is likely to succeed on his due process claim because, on this record, he lacked fair notice that the White House might punish his purportedly unprofessional conduct by suspending his hard pass for a month. The court also held that the remaining preliminary injunction factors counsel in favor of affirmance where Karem stands to suffer immediate irreparable harm absent an injunction, and the balance of the equities and the public interest factors also favor an injunction. The court limited the scope of the injunction to run only to the Press Secretary, rather than the Press Secretary and the President. View "Karem v. Trump" on Justia Law

by
Appellant contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the direct appeal of his murder conviction in D.C. Superior Court. Appellant alleged that his appellate counsel labored under two conflicts of interest and failed to argue that the government withheld exculpatory evidence. The court rejected appellant's claims that a conflict arose from counsel's prior representation of another individual present at the time of the murder where counsel had forgotten his prior representation of the individual and thus lacked an actual conflict. Consequently, appellant's second claim of conflict also failed.The court further held that counsel was not ineffective by declining to pursue a losing Brady claim. Moreover, appellant's final argument that counsel was ineffective on appeal in failing to argue that he had been ineffective at trial simply repackaged the losing Brady argument. Therefore, appellant was not denied effective assistance of appellate counsel. View "Johnson v. Wilson" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the Attorney General of the United States in his official capacity as head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), alleging that the DOJ had denied her a promotion to a Division Director position because of her gender, in violation of 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16, and her age, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 633a. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the DOJ.The DC Circuit held that a reasonable jury could find that the DOJ's proffered nondiscriminatory reason for denying plaintiff the promotion that she sought was pretextual and that discrimination was the real reason. In this case, a reasonable jury could find in plaintiff's favor based on her superior qualifications, the accumulated evidence of gender discrimination, and pretext. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stoe v. Barr" on Justia Law